Poem for an Awful Inauguration

January 20, 2017

This Awful Inauguration day augurs so
dimly for us all, and we aren’t even in
the United States. The world awaits

uncertain of outcome, certain only that
meanness prevails of heart and intent.
We’ve dropped into the well of offal.

An Awful Inauguration day augurs well
for the unduly rich but poorly for poor
and dispossessed, for poor middle class.

This Awful Inauguration day augurs ill
for Obamacare, for the health of a nation,
for all illegal aliens and for alienated arts.

This Awful Inauguration day augurs dimly
for us all, and we aren’t even in the Year
of the vain Fire Rooster till January 28.

O weather vane, you parade your lies as
truth. You spin with the wind. You turn.
You twitter and trumpet trust topsy-turvy.

This Awful Inauguration day crows triumph
for the cock of the walk, king for a day, or
another four years. We withhold, withstand

his very dangerous flash in a very wide pan.
But we don’t withdraw. We march, we hold
on, hold to, truth as we know it. We refuse.

We are other. We are alien. We protest: these
Auguries of Inauguration are not innocent.

Penn Kemp

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How we are (in)formed!

Listening to http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/farewell-to-2016-robert-harris-on-albums-that-changed-your-life-2nd-annual-shut-up-i-m-thinking-word-game-1.3906841/the-music-that-changed-your-world-episode-1-1.3906953.

Robert Harris’s choices are interesting, and all too telling!

The delicious Rosalind Russell sings, “Just throw your knowledge in his face… that’s the second way to lose a man…” And then George Gaynes sings for “his gentle girl, his quiet girl…” from On the Town, 1949. “We need no words./ She sees— she knows… Where is that special girl/Who is soft, soft as snow/ Somewhere /Somewhere, my quiet girl”.

Bernstein’s lyrics enforce the notion of ‘a gentle, quiet’ girl who is “a different kind of girl” from the “sharp, intellectual kind” usually picked. And so stereotypes are deeply embedded from childhood on… On the Town heralds in the ‘50’s!

Oh how things have changed… or not!

https://no1lyrics.com/song/one-hundred-easy-ways-483321
http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/Leonard_Bernstein:A_Quiet_Girl

“It happens over and over
I pick the sharp intellectual kind
Why couldn’t this time be different
Why couldn’t she – only be
Another kind – A different kind of girl

I love a quiet girl
I love a gentle girl”

Ah, the songs were out of context…I stand corrected, though I still question Robert Harris’s choices:)! “It was Betty Comden and Adolf Green who wrote the lyrics, Not Leonard! and if you watch the play, the hero changes his mind about the unquiet girl and gets Ruth! The song ends up being almost satirical in its proper setting.” Good to hear. 

Penn Winnipeg bear

Photo: Heidi Greco

On Tradition

 

May 2017 SHINE!

http://www.lfpress.com/2016/12/26/london-new-years-day-chilling-at-home-most-common-tradition.

For a rebel like me, what do I know about tradition? In my youth, along with the rest of my 60’s generation, I cast off all tradition as old hat. I scorned as false the sense of security that tradition offers. We vowed to create everything new! But this year especially, after such world-wide disruption, tradition gives comfort and joy, as the carol’s refrain has it. The old hat fits just right. Nostalgia offers a familiar past that is safer than the unpredictable future. Tradition is a way of handing down a swirling legacy to children and grandchildren, establishing the implant of warm memories. Here’s to plum pudding lit with brandy flame for New Year’s dinner! Christmas cake soaked in rum since early November… eggnog and Handel’s Messiah!

Icelanders have a tradition of giving each other books and then quietly reading at home all through Christmas Eve. I’d be too antsy to read on a night so redolent with anticipation. But I’m ready to establish a new tradition of peacefully reading through New Year’s Day. Reading quietly, very quietly, after the excess of New Year’s Eve. Sinking into the contained comfort of the latest Louise Penny novel. And poetry, luxuriating in the slow process of reading poetry, where not even eyes move fast. My only Resolutions on New Year’s are to eat less, exercise more: sound familiar? By the last Saturday in January, I’m ready for another feast….The clan collects annually for Robbie Burns and a reading of the “Address to the Haggis” before we feast on haggis and tatties. I still resolve to exercise more… later. My feeble rendition of the “Address to the Haggis” is up on https://www.facebook.com/christine.romard/videos/919139858104867/?theater

penn-1950

1952, reading Tom Sawyer (I think…)

NewYearTime

A typical New Year’s Eve pic in the Kemp household: New Year’s Baby Clare Bice and Father Time Jim Kemp en route to the Beaux Arts Ball!

Coda: If you’ve been raised on English Literature, you can’t escape the T.S. Eliot essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”.  How we fit into the wide embrace of all that has been already written.

Intimations of becoming all that already has been, is, and will be.

Janus: the two-headed month, looking back and looking forward. May your memories be dear, your present fulfilled and your future shining!

Poem for Solstice Night

All Things Considered

On the shelf inside the storm, an empty
pitcher of light awaits sage and summer
savory.  All puns are planted to present
these things as if saying were enough
to conjure the perfect illusion illuminated.
Now.  At the turning of the year after
nadir of deepest darkness, the small
Moon of Long Night turns to beam
over the orchard above the frozen lake.
The sun stands Solstice still, holding
its breath, biding its time until released
to start once more in utter clarity of cold.

 

In that perilous moment before cycles
start up again, we all can fall through
cracks.  Interstices of ice drag us down.

We grope from dusk to dark to light.
We slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,
considere, to be with the luminary.

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
conjuring night creatures’ obscured world,

Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.

Penn Kemp

*

The last lines of this poem were first published in from Dream Sequins, Lyrical Myrical Press, with drawings by the brilliant Steven McCabe. See his gorgeous https://poemimage.wordpress.com/.

Ode for the Feast of Words

WORDSFEST is happening all weekend long at Museum London: see http://www.wordsfest.com/

http://www.lfpress.com/2016/11/03/words-fest-gives-instant-feedback
Send your responses about the Festival to http://www.wordsfestzine.com/. Work for this zine will be collected from Festival-goers on Friday and Saturday, then published and launched at the Rhino Lounge in Museum London Sunday, Nov. 6, at 5pm. Whew! Here’s my poem for the zine:

Ode for the Feast of Words

Our London Muses, amused, proclaim:

Come join our Museum feast in joy

of joining, reading, weaving a way,

riding a wave, waving a welcome,

well, come in then. Here. Hear!

Attendance’s high, attention is close.

Words are our vocation, invoking

the vocative, pro vocative, calling us,

calling on us, call sure, culture, meeting

our many cultures, collected. Whatever

the weather, we conjure com pose

words worth envisioned, inclusive in

terms of the other, for all our sakes.

Describing the arc, friends collect and

meet new, gathering poets in harmony |

with other authors.  Rhythm rhymes us.

Creating community, fusion delights

this spacious collective, call elect if

held in the London community bowl.

The Graces are present, spirits high.

Lift the cup and dance, sing, speak, tell

the tale told, win, write welcome.

O may the best manifest

fest if all festivity

Cheer and exult.

Hail and salute!

Here, here!
Penn Kemp

http://www.lfpress.com/2016/11/02/wordsfest-authors-and-eager-fans-come-out-from-under-the-covers

wordsfest-belanger

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Photo: Toban Black

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A Year of Reading Dangerously: Memorial

Notes on Alice Oswald’s Memorial: a version of Homer’s Iliad
with an afterword by Eavan Boland.  W.W. Norton & Company.

“Like fire with its loose hair flying rushes through a city
The look of unmasked light shocks everything to rubble”

Alice Oswald’s Memorial: a version of Homer’s Iliad is a merciless, fully compassionate and all too relevant reading of The Illiad. This short, immensely weighted book drops the unresponsive body of narrative to reveal a poetry of pure heart: “I write through the Greek, not from it— aiming for translucence rather than translation.” Memorial is heart-rending into its specificity, enumerating the names of the dead in a litany reminiscent of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans  Memorial. I almost wrote ‘fallen’, the word of memorialists since the Great War.

Oswald enlists “‘enargeia’, which means something like ‘bright unbearable reality’. It’s the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves. This version, trying to retrieve the poem’s enargeia, takes away superfluous narrative. Instead, Oswald evokes through similes traditional Greek pastoral and lament. But why or why does she not use the more assuaging and mellifluous ‘as’ instead of the obstreperous ‘like’ when introducing her similes… Perhaps she prefers the bluntness of ‘like’.

I misspelled history as ‘histroy’ and Spell Checker suggested, appropriately, his Troy. “The Iliad is a vocative poem. Perhaps even (in common with lament) it is invocative. It always addresses Patroculus as ‘you’, as if speaking directly to the dead… a kind of oral cemetery”. The poem presents in a phrase or epithet a man’s whole history as well as the manner of his death.  The olive tree is granted slightly more space in Oswald’s astonishing simile of life’s cycle:

“Like a man put a wand of olive in the earth
And watered it and that wand became a wave
It became a whip a spine a crown
It became a wind-dictionary
It could speak in tongues
It became a wobbling wagon-load of flowers
And then a storm came spinning by
And it became a broken tree uprooted
It became a wood pile in a lonely field.”

Another Alice Oswald was my English teacher at Medway High School: a dry stick we considered ancient. A dry stick who would burst to flame when reciting Keats’s ode. The image on the cover of PERFORMING WOMEN honours that flame as well.

performing-women-2016

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Acknowledgements Barbaric Cultural Practice

Available from Quattro Books, http://quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/

Next readings/launches:
November 6, 10am. Penn Kemp and Madeline Bassnett read together for this session @ Words, London’s Literary and Creative Arts Festival, http://wordsfest.ca/. The Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N, London, ON N6A 5H4. Contact: Joshua D Lambier, Artistic Director, jlambie2@uwo.ca. https://www.facebook.com/events/1136768886402917/http://wordsfest.ca/events/2016/penn-kemp-madeline-bassnett-in-conversation

Saturday, November 26, 2-4, pm. Book signing and Launch of Women & Multimedia and Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets. The Living Archives Series, The Feminist Caucus, League of Canadian Poets, http://poets.ca/wordpress/programs-2/feminist-caucus. Essayist and editor of the two anthologies. AND Barbaric Cultural Practice! Brown & Dickson, 519-318-1983, books@brownanddickson.com, http://www.brownanddickson.com, 609 Richmond Street, London  N6A 3G3

barbaric-cultural-practice_front-coverMany of the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice were provoked into being by political events, ongoing, so I have co-opted the hashtag, #BarbaricCulturalPractice. I’m thrilled that Quattro was able to insert QR codes to sixteen of these poems, so you can experience them off the page as audio and video. My impulse in writing hovers along a long spectrum of indignation, compassion, horror, scorn and ridicule: a multitude of response that only poetry can, for me, express. Such reactions are expressed in http://www.thelondoner.ca/2016/09/28/penn-kemp-as-barbarian and this interview: https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/what-made-me-a-poet-curiosity-the-thrill-of-adventure-of-new-worlds-qa-with-poet-penn-kemp/.

I’m deeply grateful for family and friends’ encouragement en route and ongoing during the evolution of these poems. The list is long and extends back decades. Special thanks to Allan Briesmaster, my editor and publisher of Barbaric Cultural Practice. A fine poet himself, he is the ideal editor, encouraging, engaging, and always astute. Thanks as well to my dear poet friends, Katerina Fretwell, Susan McCaslin, and most especially to Susan McMaster, for their keen eyes and ears and discerning comments. I’m grateful to all who wrote such enthusiastic endorsements: Di Brandt, George Elliot Clarke, Katerina Fretwell, Laurie D. Graham, Leona Graham, Dennis Maloney, Susan McCaslin, Susan McMaster, Elizabeth Waterston and Sheri-D Wilson! See https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/endorsements-for-barbaric-cultural-practice/. Thanks to J. R. (Tim) Struthers, for suggesting the title, “The Hart of London.” And to Catherine Ross, my literary executrix!

The cover painting, Transporting, is by my beloved friend, Anne Anglin. It is her vivid
interpretation of an equally vivid dream I had. Gavin Stairs included some of these poems in artbooks, republishing earlier works through our little company, Pendas Productions. I have posted poems on www.pennkemp.wordpress.com. Several of these poems or lines therein have been published in my books: Binding Twine (Ragweed Press), Trance Form (Soft Press), Some Talk Magic (Ergo Productions), Throo (Moonstone Press), ANIMUS (Caitlin Press), as well as two chapbooks: Eidolons (White Pine Press) and from Dream Sequins, (Lyrical Myrical Press).

Poetry needs to be heard as well as read, so I have concentrated in recent years on audio renditions and videopoems in collaboration with Bill Gilliam, John Magyar, Dennis Siren, and Gavin Stairs: available from Pendas Productions, pendas@pennkemp.ca.

Several of the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice were commissioned by activist organizations. Versions of most of the poems were first published in magazines, literary journals and newspapers. I would like to thank the editors of all the literary magazines that support Canadian writing. The London Free Press and Metro News (London) have been most supportive in publishing occasional poems over the last decade. I would like to thank all those editors who support and promote Canadian writing. The League of Canadian Poets has supported most of the readings where these poems were performed. A Toronto Arts Council grant gave me much appreciated time to write

Where you may have read these poems, in other incarnations or reprinted:

“Celebrating Tree in Souwesto,” “The Hart of London.” Another London Anthology, harmonia press, September 2016

Tuck Magazine in Britain recently reprinted the following poems: “Arms and the Boy”, “Demeter’s Exclusion Sector” and “May Day, 1945”, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/10/06/poetry-558/. “Smog Alert” and “Gender Bias Even Among the Elements”, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/09/19/poetry-532/. “Synaesthetics”, “Filling the Cart” and “Giving Your Word”, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/09/05/poetry-512/.
“Tip Line”, “The Nature of Food”, Tuck Magazine, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/08/23/poetry-493/

Seven poems are in Danse Macabre: An Online Literary Magazine #99, Pictures of Life, Eletkepek, July 2016.  The poem “Solstice” was chosen as Danse Macabre du Jour, https://dmdujour.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/penn-kemp-solstice/  “Reflecting Mimesis” and “All things Considered”, https://dmdujour.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/penn-kemp-two-poems/  and http://dansemacabre.art.officelive.com/DanseMacabreDuJour.aspx.

“Given a Line.”CV2. Contemporary Verse 2.V.38.3, Winter 2016. http://www.contemporaryverse2.ca/en/store/issue/the-open-issue3

“Walking on the Moon.” Cordite/Arc. http://cordite.org.au/content/poetry/ohcanada/, http://cordite.org.au/newsblog/walking-on-the-moon/

“Grazing the Face of Climate Change,” “Gender Bias Even Among the Elements,” “Middle March and Beyond.” Canadian Woman Studies: Women and Water, Vol. 30, Nos. 2, 3. Inanna Publications, http://inanna.ca/index.php/catalog/women-and-water/

“Heart to Art,” “Too Close for Comfort.” Goddess Pages, Issue #27: Summer 2015. http://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/three-poems-from-penn-kemp/#more-2890    https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/goddess-poems-2015/

“Five Poems on Food.”
http://www.londonpoetryopenmic.com/biographies–featured-poets–musicians/penn-kemp-featuring-with-john-nyman-at-london-open-mic-april-1st-bio-and-poems

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